By Lauren Gallegos
The Wellness & Prevention Coalition joined 645 local coalitions across the nation as a federally funded Drug-Free Communities (DFC) alliance through the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
The Wellness & Prevention Coalition was a previous grant recipient from 2018-2022 and reapplied for an additional five years of funding through a competitive grant process earlier this year.
The grant provides funding to community coalitions working to prevent youth substance use by supporting individuals and communities in their work to help prevent youth use of alcohol, marijuana, counterfeit pills, and other illicit substances.
The Wellness & Prevention Coalition uses comprehensive strategies to reduce past-30-day use of alcohol and other drugs, increase perception of harm of alcohol and other drugs, and decrease access to alcohol and other drugs. The main goals of the grant program are to increase community collaboration to reduce youth substance use.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of ONDCP, stated,“We know that preventing youth substance use greatly decreases the chances of a young person developing a substance-use disorder. Moreover, research shows that youth substance use decreases significantly in communities with a DFC coalition. Investing in young people is a critical piece of our collective work to make communities healthier and safer.”
The DFC Support Program, created by the Drug-Free Communities Act of 1997, is the nation’s leading effort to mobilize communities to prevent youth substance use.
Directed by ONDCP in partnership with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the DFC Support Program provides grants to community coalitions to strengthen the infrastructure among local partners to create and sustain a reduction in local youth substance use.
DFC-funded coalitions engage multiple sectors of the community and employ a variety of environmental strategies to address local substance-use problems. DFCs involve local communities in finding solutions that help youth make healthy choices, recognizing the majority of youth choose not to use substances. Coalitions are engaged in a broad range of practices that move from community mobilization and awareness to community action and, ultimately, community outcomes.
The Wellness & Prevention Coalition supports the San Clemente community through community education on youth substance use, intervention and support for youth who are struggling, providing alternative activities to using drugs and alcohol, and supporting policies that contribute to healthy youth development.
Some notable ways the W&P Coalition has spread awareness include coordinating health and wellness resource fairs, hosting parent and teen wellness workshops, and partnering to host the annual Together4Teens youth conference.
Youth leadership development has been at the forefront of the coalition work; the youth coalition at San Clemente High School has organized and participated in annual Red Ribbon week activities, collected pledges from peers to remain drug-free, implemented the annual Tie One On for Safety campaign to prevent underage drinking and unsafe driving, and attended the annual Drug Free Communities National Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
Over the past five years the Wellness & Prevention Coalition’s work has contributed to lowering substance use among our youth.
Past 30-day use of alcohol decreased from 8% to 5% among ninth-graders and 21% to 17% among 11th-graders. Marijuana use also decreased from 7% to 4% among ninth-graders and 14% to 11% among 11th-graders, according to California Healthy Kids Surveys from 2018 and 2021.
Partners of the coalition include Providence Mission Hospital; San Clemente High School; The Noble Path Foundation; Picket Fence Media; Orange County Sheriff’s Department; San Clemente Rotary Club; Partners 4 Wellness; Outlets at San Clemente; Orange County Health Care Agency; Parent Teacher Student Association; Strength in Numbers OC; Community Outreach Alliance; Laura’s House; and other adult and youth community members.
If you are interested in joining the efforts of the coalition, please contact Lauren Gallegos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of youth in our community.
Lauren Gallegos, ACSW, is the Prevention Director at the Wellness & Prevention Center.